Four Ways The Arts Are Serving Veterans and the Military

Posted by Mr. John W. Haworth, May 16, 2022

As the nation observes Military Appreciation Month in May, it feels an appropriate moment to give attention to arts programs that support our military-connected communities, especially Veterans. The cultural sector plays an active and meaningful role serving Veterans and their families, and it is important to put this work within a broader context of both key challenges and issues. Of the more than two million American troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, about a third have symptoms of post-traumatic stress, depression, and brain injuries. Many cultural organizations and individual artists have the capacity and interest to serve Veterans by providing them with opportunities to gain experience, new skills, and stronger ties in their home communities. For the cultural sector, the challenges of collaborating effectively with Veterans are demanding, and the work requires us to build relationships with Veteran organizations and develop specialized skills in how we serve Veterans. Given the special hardships and challenges members of the military face—including dealing with extreme stress and trauma issues and finding the wherewithal to reconnect with their daily routines, family and personal relationships, and their communities—the arts certainly play an integral role in advancing health and wellbeing. 

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Spotlight on Nolen V. Bivens, Interim President and CEO

Posted by Linda Lombardi, Jan 29, 2021

A Director Emeritus and former Board member of Americans for the Arts, Brigadier General Nolen V. Bivens, U.S. Army Ret., is currently serving as our Interim President and CEO. He serves as Chair, National Leadership Advisory Council for the National Initiative for Arts & Health Across the Military, and Military community advisor for the National Endowment for the Arts Military Healing Arts Network Creative Forces program, among other roles. “As a senior military leader, I had to find answers to problems that traditional military training didn’t prepare me to deal with. Getting service members to address personal trauma was one of those problems. Following tours in Iraq and training to return, it became apparent to me that service men and women weren’t always taking care of themselves. Individuals who encountered some great trauma were not taking advantage of medical resources and it was showing up in all sorts of ways—from ever increasing suicides to family violence. They weren’t taking advantage of the traditional therapies available for various reasons such as fear of losing their clearances or being stigmatized as a weak leader. I found that many of them simply wanted to engage in activities which would free their minds of the stress they were experiencing. The arts were a way to do this without telegraphing the need for help.” 

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10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2020

Posted by Mr. Randy Cohen, Mar 23, 2020

The effective arts advocate needs to articulate the value of the arts in as many ways as possible—deploying the right case-making tool in the right situation. Consider these “10 Reasons to Support the Arts” as your Swiss army knife for arts advocacy. Like so many sequestered at home during COVID-19, I write this while mindful of our challenging times, and yet inspired by how the arts still have found a way to permeate our lives. I have watched Yo-Yo Ma concerts online, visited the Smithsonian Museum with a click, and joined my neighbors for daily 6 p.m. outdoor singalongs. Even in this difficult environment, the arts are providing personal experiences and promote social cohesion (see tools #2 and #8 on your army knife!). While I am uncertain what we will look like on the other side of this crisis, tool #1 makes me optimistic that when it is time to stop practicing social distancing, it is the arts that will unify us. 

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Music Engagement for Health and Wellness Across the Military Continuum

Posted by CW2 Jonathan L. Crane, Nov 26, 2019

Humans’ entire recorded history revolves around wars as different cultures and ideologies collided. As sound is an intrinsic part of culture it was only natural for us to use music to rally our tribes and intimidate the “others.” Just as sound (music) continues to be used as motivation before battle, it also is used as recovery after conflict. There is a wealth of organizations, both within government and the non-profit sector, dedicated to providing music-based health services across the spectrum of need. Over the past two years I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the national initiative to advocate for these services and increase collaboration between organizations. It has been a journey of amazing discovery that I wish all people could take. So much advancement has been made in improving our health. The combination of modern medicine and age-old understanding of wellness are creating better lives across the globe. The need for creative arts therapies across the military continuum will increase. I envision a world where a member of our Armed Forces has a partner in music from the day they join and throughout the rest of their lives.

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Music Bonds Veterans Across Generations: The Essential Role of Music in the Military

Posted by CW2 Jonathan L. Crane, Nov 08, 2019

Since the beginning of military conflict, music has played an essential role. Humans have been using their voices and creating instruments to produce sound for at least 10,000 years. It was inevitable that our need to create organized sound would extend to war. Before the advent of electronic communication, drums, fifes, and bugles were used to give commands in training and in battle. Along with this functional use of music, traditional songs were carried into the military for comfort and camaraderie. Shared song was a distractor on long marches, a way to bind Soldiers from different backgrounds, and a source of motivation to fight the enemy. Those shared musical experiences provide context and meaning that is vital to psychological and emotional recovery after war, and helps Veterans stay connected to each other and their service. This bonding force helps them tell their story to the public at large so the public truly understands the sacrifices they made, which can help to bring us all together as a nation.

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The Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center: Storytelling, Art, Music, and History in Tijeras, NM

Posted by Dr. Circe Olson Woessner, Nov 01, 2019

It generally happens like this: The door to our museum opens—and in comes … a former military brat … or spouse … or a veteran with his or her family. Most of the time, they’re from out of town and have been following us on Facebook, planning a trip to our museum when they visit Albuquerque—or they were just driving along Route 66 and happened to see our sign. No matter how they got to the Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center, their reactions are almost always the same: “I had no idea what to expect…” and then “Oh—this is amazing!” Because people process things differently, we capture military family history in as many formats as possible. The museum is educational, experiential, and interactive. It’s a mixture of practicality and whimsey—take our living room, for example—with its props of starched uniforms on an ironing board complete with iron, starch bottle and laundry basket, its cozy sitting area where we have discussion groups or watch DVDs on TV, or its exhibits, with panels of facts and figures. Visitors become a part of the museum, by simply being there.

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